SF supervisors approve new 2-year city budget

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors gave its preliminary approval Tuesday for the city’s new two-year fiscal budget, paving the way for its adoption by August 1. It includes more than $17 million in one-time funding, most of which is split between the next two fiscal years, for various LGBTQ needs.

The 10-1 vote by the supervisors at their July 19 meeting sets up a second and final vote on the budget at the board’s last meeting before its summer recess next Tuesday, July 26. It is required to be sent by August 1 to Mayor London Breed to sign.

The budget for Fiscal Year 2022-23 is roughly $13.95 billion and the one for FY 2023-24 is $13.85 billion. It includes funding to house transgender individuals and people living with HIV as well as monetary support for the city’s Pride committee and queer arts organizations.

“Basically a drama-free budget, which is pretty unusual. There was drama but it was minimal,” said District 9 Supervisor Hillary Ronen, who chaired the supervisors’ budget committee this year.

District 11 Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, vice chair of the budget and appropriations committee, echoed that sentiment in his remarks and noted how collegial the budget talks were this year between the supervisors, Breed’s administration and the community.

“This was one of the most seamless budget negotiations,” he said. “There was over $1 billion of asks, and we were able to whittle that down. We did a tremendous job working with the mayor, controller and everyone to get a just budget.”

District 5 Supervisor Dean Preston voted against the budget solely because of the $50 million increase in the San Francisco Police Department’s budget sought by Breed. He called it a “bright-line issue” for himself that forced him not to join his colleagues in supporting the budget.

“It really saddens me our city is doubling down, to some extent,” said Preston, by funding “failed” policing policies.

In his remarks, Safaí specifically highlighted how the budget committee took an intentional approach toward listening to the needs of the city’s transgender community. It led to the directing of city financial resources toward meeting them, he said, when across the country other elected bodies and leaders are demonizing trans people and rolling back their rights.

“At a time when there are attacks on the transgender community across the country, we have to ensure San Francisco invests and ensures that the trans community’s voice is heard,” said Safaí.

LGBTQ items

Among the LGBTQ priorities included in the budget is $6.5 million to end trans homelessness and $6 million for HIV prevention service providers spread over the next two years that Breed had included in her budget proposal that she sent to the supervisors in June. There is also $35,000 the mayor allocated to launch a drag laureate position for the city, as the Bay Area Reporter first reported last month.

The supervisors through the add-back process also allocated funds to a variety of LGBTQ organizations in the city. For instance, $100,000 will support a Black, Indigenous, People of Color trans and queer arts residency and performance event to be housed at the queer-led African American Art & Culture Complex that Queer Rebel Productions had sought, while $100,000 sought by Fresh Meat Productions will be used for its transgender/gender-nonconforming (TGNC) dance and performance festival.

There is $20,000 in rental assistance for LGBTQ live performance nonprofits in the Castro requested by Theatre Rhinoceros, while the city’s Pride committee is set to receive $300,000 to offset the financial losses it faced due to being unable to host its in-person parade and celebration in 2020 and 2021 due to the COVID pandemic.

Providers of HIV and AIDS services in the city were successful in seeing the supervisors allocate $1 million split over the two fiscal years for housing subsidies for people living with HIV or AIDS. There is an additional $300,000 for housing subsidies for seniors and adults with disabilities, plus $200,000 in funding in each of the two fiscal years for expanded mental health services for long-term survivors of HIV and AIDS.

Breed had included in her budget proposal $3 million per fiscal year for HIV service providers concerned they would need to layoff staff because their funding is set to decrease under a change in how the city’s health department is awarding contracts this year. Those agencies with federal HIV funding also hope to be able to recoup their increased costs of doing business via a pot of money the supervisors set aside for city service providers.

As gay District 8 Supervisor Rafael Mandelman told the B.A.R. in early July, there are “definitely some good wins in the budget” for the city’s LGBTQ community.

“There are a lot of investments in the most vulnerable people in the community, with a real focus in trans folks in the mayor’s budget and the board’s budget too. I think that was also really good,” he said.

Mandelman had worked with newly appointed gay District 6 Supervisor Matt Dorsey in seeking the funding for the various LGBTQ needs. Dorsey had told the B.A.R. he was pleased with how much of the funding request from the HIV providers they were able to include in the budget.

“Coming in as an openly HIV-positive supervisor, it was a priority for me,” said Dorsey, noting that his appointment to the board in May meant he had come “relatively late to the process, so I am grateful for Supervisor Mandelman and the mayor and their commitment to that. We were largely able to get the HIV funding the community was seeking.”

The funding wins for LGBTQ needs comes as the Board of Supervisors is set to hold its first hearing on the groundbreaking LGBTQ+ Cultural Heritage Strategy since it was released in draft form in 2018. The 56-page document laid out myriad ideas for preserving and strengthening San Francisco’s LGBTQ community, with an estimated price tag of between $10.2 and $15.7 million to implement it.

At Mandelman’s request, the supervisors’ land use and transportation committee is expected to hear from numerous city agencies and departments on how they are working to implement the LGBTQ cultural strategy when it meets at 1:30 p.m. next Monday, July 25.

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